The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 31, 2012

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Poachers pay in Brown County

For the Star Beacon

— Two poachers from Mississippi and a third poacher from Louisiana received fines and license revocations in Brown County Court on Dec. 5 for wildlife violations that included spotlighting and killing white-tailed deer with a rifle, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

“Ohio is an annual destination for many out-of-state hunters, and we encourage them to familiarize themselves with Ohio laws,” Brian Goldick, Division of Wildlife District Five acting manager said. “It is a hunter’s responsibility to know the laws and abide by them.”

Michael D. Brown, 43, of Bastrop, La., Robert B. Lins, 47, of Lucedale, Miss., Caleb Skelton, 32, of Wiggins, Miss., and two juveniles were apprehended for wildlife violations on Nov. 20 in Aberdeen, Ohio. The investigation was conducted by Brown County Wildlife Officer Eric Lamb, Adams County Wildlife Officer Mark Schemmel, Clermont County Wildlife Officer Gus Kiebel, Investigator Joel Buddelmeyer and Aberdeen Police Department Officer Cody Prince.

The investigation led to the discovery of two trash cans filled with venison and one-quarter of a deer stored in a bag in Skelton’s truck. In addition, three partial buck carcasses and two complete buck carcasses were hidden at a rural location.

With the assistance of Brown County Prosecuting Attorneys Zachary Corbin and Nicholas Owens, along with the help of Judge Margaret A. Clark, the men were convicted of numerous wildlife violations in the Brown County Municipal Court.

Skelton was convicted of spotlighting, shooting deer from a motor vehicle, failure to tag deer and killing deer with a rifle. Skelton was sentenced to 240 days of suspended jail time, ordered to pay $7,196.39 in restitution, a $50 fine, a $601 bill to retrieve his vehicle and additional court costs. He forfeited seized deer, a .243 rifle and a .30-06 rifle. His hunting license was revoked for five years.

Lins was convicted of spotlighting, shooting deer from a motor vehicle, failure to tag deer and killing deer with a rifle. He was sentenced to 240 days of suspended jail time, ordered to pay $1,923.77 in restitution, a $50 fine and additional court costs. He forfeited seized deer and a .270 rifle, and his hunting license was revoked for three years.

Brown was convicted of hunting deer with a rifle and hunting without a permit. He was sentenced to 90 days of suspended jail time, ordered to pay a $750 fine and additional court costs. His hunting license was revoked for one year.

A hunter may kill only one buck during Ohio’s deer season. Hunting deer with a rifle and hunting deer at night is illegal in Ohio. The restitution value for individual deer is determined by measuring the antlers using a mathematical formula and the value derived for wildlife. The formula is applied to all deer whose gross score exceeds 125 Boone and Crockett inches. Skelton killed two bucks that scored 144 5/8 and 142, respectively. Lins killed one buck that scored 129 3/8.

To report hunting or fishing violation, contact the Division of Wildlife’s Turn In a Poacher (TIP) hotline at 800-POACHER (800-762-2437). Callers may remain anonymous. Those who provide accurate information which results in a criminal wildlife conviction may be eligible for a monetary reward once the case is settled in court.

’Tis the season

Ohio’s white-tailed deer muzzleloader hunting season will open statewide Jan. 5-8, 2013, according to the Division of Wildlife.

Ohio hunters have harvested 188,853 deer this season. During the 2012 four-day muzzleloader season, 19,459 deer were harvested.

Ohio deer hunters must possess the proper permits. Regardless of zone, method of taking or season, hunters may take only one antlered deer during the 2012-13 deer hunting season.

Legal hunting hours for the muzzleloader season are a half-hour before sunrise to sunset. Deer must be checked in by noon the day after the harvest, except on the last day of muzzleloader season when a deer must be checked in by 11:30 p.m. that day.

Ohio’s small game, furbearer and waterfowl seasons are also open during the muzzleloader season. All hunters (except waterfowl hunters) must wear a visible solid hunter orange or camouflage hunter orange coat, jacket, vest or coveralls during the muzzleloader season.

Deer-archery season remains open through Feb. 3, 2013.

As a reminder hunters must still report their deer harvest, but they are no longer required to take their deer to a check station for physical inspection. Hunters have three options to complete the automated game check:

Online at

By telephone at 877-TAG-ITOH (824-4864). This option is only available to people required to have a deer permit to hunt deer.

At all license agents. A list of these agents can be found at or by calling 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543). More information about Ohio deer hunting can be found in the 2012-13 Hunting and Trapping Regulations or at Hunters can also share photos by clicking on the Photo Gallery tab online.

Cold-weather whitetails

Late season hunting can provide some of the most productive time spent in the woods the entire season. Hunters can enjoy tremendous success by locating the remaining food sources and keeping a close tab on the weather, especially in Northeast Ohio.

Feeding patterns

The secondary rut may still hot, but it’s time to begin thinking about the future of the whitetail season. By now, nearly all of the crops are out and the acorns have been devoured. In most areas a buck’s main objective will move from reproduction to bulking back up from the rigors of the rut in preparation for the winter to come. They will begin to venture back to their predictable late summer feeding patterns.

Locate food sources

By spending just a few evening in the woods, you can quickly learn where the deer are spending the majority of their time. The bucks have spent weeks on their feet looking for hot does.

During this time, they lose a large percentage of their body weight. They need to put that weight back on in order to survive the sometimes-harsh Midwest winter. When you locate these food sources, afternoon setups are the best. Often time, the deer will bed near the food source so setting up can be a challenge. I like to find a tree on an edge that provides me with some cover (which is hard to find in the bare winter woods) and allows me to shoot into the field.

If a tree with cover is hard to find, I like to set my stand facing away from the field and utilize the tree for cover. It can be a pain having to constantly look behind you, but once it gets prime time, I like to stand and turn around.

Cold and snow fronts

Once you have the food source and stand located, keep an eye on the weather. January is the time of year for big northern cold fronts that can drop the temperature 20-plus degrees in just a few hours. These big systems normally have precipitation associated with them, like snow. Hunting just before and just after these systems can be dynamite! There’s nothing better than an afternoon in the stand with snow falling. When the wait for a big front to arrive is over, make sure to get to the stand early especially during sub freezing temperatures. The deer will begin moving in the early afternoon while it’s still warm.

I hunt afternoons

I generally don’t like hunting mornings during the late season.  Hunters can be successful during this time, but they risk educating deer and the activity will quickly shift to a different location. Instead of battling the freezing temperature in the early morning dark, my [reference is to sleep in, eat breakfast, and head out around midday. Staying in my stand right up to quitting time.

Hunting during the late season can be miserable with freezing temperatures, but with a good Thinsulate outfit hunters who do their homework and are patient can capitalize on predictable patterns.

Oh, deer!

As of Dec. 25, 2012 the deer harvest stats for Ashtabula County and some surrounding counties are as follows:

Ashtabula — Bucks taken 1491, does taken 2292, button bucks 611. Total — 4394.

Geauga — Bucks taken 540, does taken 978, button bucks taken 274. Total — 1792.

Lake — Bucks taken 268, does taken 437, button bucks taken 109. Total — 814.

Trumbull — Bucks taken 1016, does taken 1477, button bucks taken 541. Total — 3034.

My call

As 2012 comes to an end and we usher in 2013, I’d like to take a second to wish all of you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. My 2013 bring you all the things that 2012 didn’t.

And remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.  

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at